How to Recognize Implantation Cramps
If you have cramps, it’s easy to assume your period is to blame. But experiencing cramping before your period is due can actually be a sign you’re pregnant! They’re called implantation cramps, and despite the fact that most women don’t know they exist, they’re actually pretty common. Here’s what you need to know about cramping during implantation and what it really feels like.
When an egg is fertilized, it happens in your fallopian tubes, explains G. Thomas Ruiz, MD, lead ob-gyn at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California. The fertilized egg then travels to your uterus, where it will burrow into the lining. “This could cause you to experience minor cramping or twinges in the very low, mid-abdomen,” says Julie Lamppa, APRN, CNM, a certified nurse midwife at Mayo Clinic.
Every woman is different, but implantation cramping generally occurs between day 20 and 22 from the first day of your last period if you have a 28-day cycle, Ruiz says. “You might think that your period is a little bit early,” he says. “There’s a sensation that your period is coming.”
So how long do implantation cramps last? Again, it’s variable, but usually you can expect that the cramping will last one to two days before wrapping up, Ruiz says.
Implantation cramps feel a lot like period cramps, says Sherry Ross, MD, an ob-gyn and women’s health expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. You may experience some discomfort in your pelvis that comes and goes.
Where do you feel implantation cramps?
You’ll likely feel the cramps throughout your pelvis or more in the middle of your pelvis, Ruiz says, but they shouldn’t be overly intense. You also won’t generally feel implantation cramps on one side only. “If you feel moderate to severe cramping or pain, especially if it’s located off to the side versus midline, you need to contact your provider,” Lamppa says. It could be nothing, but it could also be a sign of an early pregnancy loss or an ectopic pregnancy, which is a pregnancy that’s located outside of the uterus, usually in the fallopian tube, she says.
Implantation cramps vs. period cramps
It can be hard to distinguish between the two. “The difference between an implantation and PMS cramping is a positive pregnancy test,” Ross says. However, “in comparison to menstrual cramps, implantation cramps should be shorter in duration and not as intense,” Lamppa says. “You may not experience cramping at all—or so minimal it’s barely noticeable. This is perfectly fine. It has no bearing on the success of your pregnancy.”
In general, “implantation cramps are usually mild and likely won’t need intervention,” Lamppa says. But if you’re uncomfortable, there are a few things you can do to get relief:
• Take a warm bath or shower. The heat can help relax your uterine muscles and ease the cramps a bit, Ruiz says.
• Use a heating pad. Any kind of warm compress on your pelvis can be helpful, Lamppa says. Yes, using a heating pad during pregnancy is safe, since it won’t cause your core temperature to spike. But to be safe, make sure the heating pad is below 100 degrees Farhenheit and use it on localized areas for short periods of time, say 10 to 15 minutes.
• Take an OTC pain reliever. “If you need medications, acetaminophen is likely your safest option,” Lamppa says. “It’s recommended to avoid medications such as Ibuprofen or Motrin early in pregnancy.”
Implantation cramping symptoms can also include some bleeding or spotting, which is normal, Ruiz says—but if your cramps are severe or you have really heavy bleeding, call your doctor. They may want to run some tests to see what’s going on.
Updated October 2019
Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.
Plus, more from The Bump: